In an effort to bolster a communitys ability to respond to man-made and natural disasters, states, cities, and counties continuously work with governmental agencies and private healthcare providers to make sure federal emergency response planning guidelines can be effectively implemented at the local level. With growing threats from any number of causes, such as biological or other acts of terrorism, and rising violence due to a several factors (including a lagging economy and general population growth), hospitals face the real crisis of being ill-prepared to deal with large numbers of people seeking help all at once. Poor communication, staff fatigue, supply shortages, and lack of facilities management can be disastrous to the healthcare industry at the local level in emergency preparedness. Paired with the monetary problems faced by the healthcare industry in general because of issues such as rising numbers of uninsured individuals, an aging populace, and higher costs of medical supplies and personnel, the industry faces enormous challenges with their emergency preparedness planning.
Solutions for strengthening hospitals and the healthcare system can be found in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)'s Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) and Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) Cooperative Agreement. The goal of the Agreement is to integrate HPP and PHEP to build and sustain public health and healthcare preparedness capabilities as outlined in ASPRs Healthcare Preparedness Capabilities: National Guidance for Healthcare System Preparedness and in CDCs Public Health Preparedness Capabilities: National Standards for State and Local Planning. These documents establish standards for protecting human health and national health security. PHEP, released in March 2011, identifies 15 capabilities necessary for effective community emergency response; HPP focuses on 8 of PHEPs 15 capabilities as the basis for healthcare system, Healthcare Coalition, and healthcare organization preparedness. The 8 capabilities that impact healthcare include:
▪ Healthcare System Preparedness
▪ Healthcare System Recovery
▪ Emergency Operations Coordination
▪ Fatality Management
▪ Information Sharing
▪ Medical Surge
▪ Responder Safety and Health
▪ Volunteer Management
The Agreement, effective this month (July 2012), seeks to facilitate preparedness at the local level, stating strong and resilient Healthcare Coalitions are the key to an effective state and local...response to an event-driven medical surge.
Identifying gaps in preparedness, prioritization, and building a sustaining healthcare industry emergency preparedness capabilities is key to ensuring safer, well-prepared communities and cities. With these new tool healthcare should be better prepared to support their community in event of a disaster.